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Federal anti-abortion rights provision blocking states from banning abortion outright

What could have been an effective trigger to begin dismantling Roe v. Wade died last week in Louisiana after the state House voted 65-30 to recommit a bill that would have effectively banned abortion. The Associated Press initially reported that Louisiana lawmakers moved against passage after the bill’s author, Rep. John LaBruzzo (R-District 81), provided a fiscal analysis showing that the state was at risk to lose $4.5 billion in federal health care funding through Medicaid were the bill to pass.

Louisiana is an example of anti-abortion rights legislation effectively banning anti-abortion rights legislation.

Over the course of this year, the “personhood” movement, led by national umbrella group Personhood USA, has made headway with various states introducing bills and ballot measures to redefine the beginning of life at conception or fertilization. Such proposed measures have already begun to face legal scrutiny, but Louisiana’s proposal to revise the state’s Human Life Protection Act failed (at least for this year) thanks to existing federal legislation intended to restrict abortion with a ban on federal funding, also known as the Hyde Amendment. What the Hyde Amendment also does, however, is require Medicaid funding of abortion services to terminate pregnancies caused by rape or incest or that would jeopardize the mother’s life.

Personhood USA founder and president Keith Mason recently told a Reuters reporter that the Hyde Amendment has become the most recent stumbling block in ending abortion outright.

“Henry Hyde, a champion of the anti-abortion movement, might turn over in his grave if he knew that a provision of law he authored was an obstacle to individual states banning abortion,” write Reuters’ Kathy Finn.

What happened in Louisiana last week could be an indication that the rape and incest exceptions of the Hyde Amendment will make it difficult for states to enact full-fledged measures criminalizing all abortions in every case -– lest states be stripped of Medicaid funding entirely.

The state vote came a week after a Personhood USA affiliate toured Mississippi to rally support for a personhood amendment on the ballot for the upcoming general election. The so-called “Conceived in Rape” tour was intended to give justification for banning abortion without exception for rape or incest.

Alabama is another state that recently failed to pass abortion-banning legislation. The bill (SB301), intended to define a person as a human being “from the moment of fertilization and implantation into the womb,” failed to reach a final vote in the state House last week, on the last day of the state’s legislative session. Last minute changes were made in the Senate version of the bill that, instead of banning all abortions, would have only banned all surgical abortions and many chemical abortions.

“SB301 started out on the right track, but it had a fatal flaw,” said Personhood USA spokesperson Jennifer Mason in a statement. “The amended version of SB301 essentially stated that personhood begins at implantation – which we know is not the case. Embryology textbooks show that life begins at fertilization, not implantation.”

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